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Originally published March 28, 2013 at 8:17 PM | Page modified March 29, 2013 at 6:15 AM

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Latest round of layoffs at T-Mobile draws static

As many as 300 employees lost their jobs at the Bellevue headquarters Thursday in a cost-cutting move that drew employee ire over the way it was handled.

Seattle Times senior technology reporter

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T-Mobile USA ended its silence around layoffs at its Bellevue headquarters on Thursday, as hundreds of employees lost their jobs.

Between 200 and 300 employees in the company’s operations group were laid off, ranging from administrative assistants to senior vice presidents. That’s in addition to a layoff of 100 employees in the marketing department earlier this month.

While the cuts were not unexpected, employees said they received little communication from the company about the situation, with some taking issue with how the layoffs were carried out.

In a prepared statement, T-Mobile noted that in New York on Tuesday it announced a new business strategy aimed at reducing costs and complexity for consumers.

“As a result, we are making some operational changes to better align our business with our new strategy and position T-Mobile for growth,” the statement said. “This affects a small number of employees relative to the overall size of the business, and while we don’t take these actions lightly, these adjustments to how we invest in the business will enable us to better focus our resources as we implement this strategy.”

T-Mobile is the nation’s fourth-largest wireless carrier and the largest wireless company still based in the Seattle area, an area that spawned the modern wireless industry in the 1980s when McCaw Cellular established a national network.

Last year, T-Mobile had about 4,800 employees at its Bellevue headquarters and 36,000 nationally.

The layoffs come as T-Mobile is preparing to go public after it merges with Dallas-based MetroPCS in a deal that shareholders are voting on April 12.

“They definitely are whittling down to the leanest organization they can survive with,” said Michele Clark, a seven-year veteran of the company, who was working as an executive assistant in the operations group when she was laid off Thursday.

Another affected employee said people had been anticipating the cuts in part because the human-resources group had reserved conference rooms.

This employee found out she was on the list when she received an electronic calendar invitation to meet with a supervisor. The invitation came after the employee and others on the team worked over the weekend to prepare for the new service plans launched Tuesday.

“You have a half an hour to do whatever you need to do then give your badge and leave,” the employee said. “I’ve never dealt with anything so unprofessional.”

Remaining employees are seeing other cost-cutting moves, from the loss of free beverages to the mysterious removal of office clocks. A person with knowledge of the situation said the clocks were removed because the T-Mobile buildings’ centralized clock system was broken and the firm that built and serviced the system is out of business.

Layoffs and uncertainty have prompted a number of T-Mobile employees to pursue jobs at AT&T, which has had a large presence in the area since it acquired McCaw in 1994. In Redmond, AT&T manages operations in the Western U.S. and performs engineering and testing. It has 4,592 employees in Washington.

“We have noticed an influx of folks making inquiries here for some of our openings,” said Fred Devereux, president of AT&T’s West region. “We encourage it.”

T-Mobile hasn’t been saying much internally about rumors over the past couple of weeks that layoffs were imminent, according to the employee who was laid off this morning:

“The only communication that we got about this was rumors,” the employee said.

Meanwhile, the employee is fuming over handling of the layoffs and how it contrasts with the value and mission statements posted around headquarters in Factoria.

“l look at the values that are printed on every poster on every wall — ‘go big, stay scrappy,’ ‘integrity and respect guide our decisions,’ ‘best place to perform and grow’ — I just want to go around the building with a Sharpie and go ‘this one doesn’t apply, this one doesn’t apply,” the employee said.

Brier Dudley: 206-515-5687 or bdudley@seattletimes.com.

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